3 crown princes line up to lead VW

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech appears to be lining up three crown princes to compete for the top management post at the carmaker when current CEO Martin Winterkorn retires.

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler moved a step closer to the No. 1 job at Europe's biggest carmaker with his appointment Friday as a VW group management board member.

At the same time, a potential rival for the CEO job, Christian Klingler, was promoted to the same board and named VW's global head of sales and marketing.

Another VW appointee, Karl-Thomas Neumann, also is being touted in the German press as a potential leader when Winterkorn, 62, retires in five years.

The backgrounds of the three candidates couldn't be more different: Stadler, 46, is a finance expert; Klingler, 41, made his name running dealers; Neumann, 48, is an electronics specialist.

They do have one thing in common – Piech knows and trusts them.

Before Stadler moved to Audi, he ran Piech's office in Wolfsburg.

Before joining VW last year, Klingler, who like Piech is an Austrian, was a top manager at Europe's biggest dealer group, Porsche Holding, which the Porsche-Piech families own and VW is buying for an estimated 3.5 billion euros.

Former Continental CEO Neumann rejoins VW on December 1 in a high-level role specifically designed to capitalize on his expertise in the electrification of vehicles.

Neumann worked for VW earlier in his career and won praise from the carmaker's then-development chief Winterkorn for fixing VW's electronic glitches.

So who will get the top job? Think about these two things – Piech loves technical experts and electric power is the seen as the future.